Monday, April 29, 2013

... With heart and bite : an INTERVIEW with Phil Howlett of ROTE MARE

From the other side of the planet is coming one of the most interesting Doom bands of the recent past years, I've named ROTE MARE  - out of Australia ... After their debut album "Serpents of the Church" released in late 2011, Phil Howlett and his buddies are back in 2013's actuality with an amazing split album shared with the excellent Dire Fate  and ... this is soon to be followed by two full albums !!! Yes, you've read well, no less than 2 new Albums in a row and hopefully successive occasions to let way more people know how good those guys are in crafting raw and heavy DOOM with heart and bite... 

I felt necessary to ask Phil (guit/voc) more about all that happened to the band during this last year filled with many recording sessions, the local scene and a few other stuff ... Watch out for ROTE MARE, you won't regret your support to make 2013 the year of a well deserved recognition for them !

- How did it come that you released a split CD with DIRE FATE ? Was it a long-time planed collaboration ?

 I came across Dire Fate on myspace a few years ago and really liked what I heard. I got a copy of their demo and I guess the idea of a split just grew from there. The Hour Of Doom and Sinking Ships were recorded mid-late 2011. So the process of getting it together has taken a very long time. The songs were recorded after the idea of the split came about.

- Was the deal with Altsphere a one-album affair ? Were you satisfied of this collaboration , did it end in good terms ?

The deal with Altsphere was not specified as being ongoing or otherwise. I can only appreciate Jeff's efforts in releasing and promoting Serpents Of The Church. It got us a lot more promotion overall. So I guess I was pretty happy with the collaboration. It didn't end in bad terms.

- The split marks a neat evolution in my opinion in terms of thickness, like your definitely a full and cohesive band… I know you started as one-man band and released quite many demos, to me “serpents of the church” and more logically older materials sounded at times a bit too confused; am I wrong or ROTE MARE did evolute as a band team ? Is that for this reason that you re-recorded old songs for the new albums ?

Sorrows Path in 2010 was the first band recording everything before that was solo. I still write 90% of the material now although band input is important. Sean has taken over the artwork side of the band as he is obviously pretty talented in that area. I guess I write a little differently when writing for the band as opposed to writing solo. So there is definitely some evolution in the sound. The main reason for re-recording old songs is that I like the songs and would like to hear them with a full band with nicer guitar solos and much better drumming. On these two albums I just wanted to get these old songs done and out of my system. I feel like on the next album following these I will write an entirely new bunch of songs.

  -  You generally write very long songs, obviously considering the format you couldn’t put two songs of 15 minutes like “the hour of doom” but on the other hand “sinking” is maybe one of your shortest ever … was that the only one you have had in mind to compose your part of the split ? This song has a tremendous gothic edge, another facet of your singing which is usually more nuanced but still perceptible, this time it’s clearly developed and musically too with hints of british death/doom which make it in the end too fuckin’ short, hahaha !

I liked the humour in the idea of doing one massive song and one extremely short song so that was the main reason ha ha. I often get comments on my vocal style being gothic or sounding at times like Robert Smith. It's not a conscious effort on my part. I just try and fit a style which I think suits the particular song. In some ways I would like to be able to sing in a traditional doom/metal style more often but my voice just doesn't seem to work that way in a number of the songs. I have never been a big fan of gothic music in general or for that matter british death/doom. I would say most of my influence in that area comes from Celtic Frost's "Into The Pandemonium". Celtic Frost in general are a massive influence on me. I enjoy a bit of the early to mid Anathema particularly "The Silent Enigma" but other than that very rarely does death/doom do it for me. Another song I had in mind for the split was Eternal Winter.

- “The hour of doom” has everything of a true DOOM anthem like just a few have written, I guess that if a song has to be ever associated to your name this will be this one … are you conscious of that, is it a particular one for you or is it just a song among others ? This song required certainly an optimal form to get it such brilliantly executed on a vocal point ? just as the whole vocal performance, those screams around 11 to 13 minutes are awesome, do you succeed to be faithful with that on live performances ?

Thanks for the compliment. I was not really conscious of that when writing it and it actually came to me very easily and quickly. It is just a song among others for me but I did want to write a massive traditional DOOM song because this is my favourite style of music. I am planning to write more songs in that vein in the future. In fact it was probably the easiest song I have ever written and it was also very easy to put lyrics to. Strangely in this song the vocals were very easy for me both in the recording and in reproducing them live. That style of screaming is also very easy for me so it's no trouble doing it at a gig. It was recorded in pretty much one or two takes and is very natural for me.

(Fuckin' Blogger, don't know why but I couldn't find this one with its usual youtube upload function, anyway here's the link to "The Hour of Doom", listen this song which will soon become one of your faves !)

- And now you are about to release 2 new albums “The invocation” and “the kingdom”, those sessions were damn productive last summer !? did you had in mind to release 2 distinct albums a long time before ? each one is a song title but is featured on the album of the other, is there an explanation to this ?

The drums tracks were recorded around May/June 2012 and the rest was recorded at home over the rest of the year and even early this year. Originally it was going to be one album and we would use the other tracks for singles and possible splits etc. Then we thought double album and then eventually two albums. I like the idea of two separate albums because you can just listen to something an hour long rather than two hours and you can chose whichever one you prefer. Double albums require a lot of concentration to listen to the whole thing. Again, it amused us to put the title track of each album on the opposing album. There is no underlying concept to the two albums just a basic idea to link the two covers and titles through the artwork. It seems now that both albums will come out at the same time (late May 2013) as they are both pretty much ready.

- The song “the furthest shore” on The Invocation album is pretty different from the 3 others you sent me and your previous recordings too, it sounds much more 70’s like, bluesy and psyched-out stuff… was that another form of DOOM you wanted to explore ?

I love 70's rock almost as much as I love trad DOOM so it's always been a form I would like to explore more.
- The beginning of “The kingdom” is a pure fury of raw 80’s Metal ( before quickly slowing down in more known territories) a period that has influenced you a lot, did you start to listen METAL with bands like Maiden of course but also Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, Satan, etc… or did it came a bit later ?

80's metal is a massive influence on me. I started listening to metal through Maiden, Priest, Motorhead, Angel Witch and others in the early 80's along with Candlemass, Cirith Ungol, Trouble etc. 80's thrash and Celtic Frost were also things I was heavily into. Loved Satan's "Court In The Act". Really looking forward to the new one.

- In a way, do you humbly aim to cover almost all possible facets of Doom, yet in a traditional manner but blending a great part of the influences that the genre has taken to form a mournful, heavy yet melodic music for servants of sorrow ?!!!

ha ha nice description. It's not really my aim but it just seems to come out a bit that way. My aim is for Rote Mare to be a traditional doom metal band but I know we sometimes don't sound that way. Influences and ideas and varied singing styles just seem to come in from various directions. One thing though is that I always try and keep the music heavy and with some rawness and bite. I like there to always be some edge to the music if that makes any sense.

- Do your lyrics have evoluted with all those new songs to write on ? did you explore new themes ?

My lyrics pretty much cover the same things they have always covered. Apocalypse, greed, suicide, depression, introversion, murder etc. Occasionally I will get a new idea or a different angle to put on something. I find lyrics very difficult in general and I only really like a few of the ones I have written.

- During those successive sessions in Summer 2012 you also recorded covers of Twisted Sister “destroyer” and Big Star “Holocaust”, looks like they were planed to be included as bonus on both new albums, but I just see Holocaust in the track list of “The Invocation”, what happened to that T.S. song ?

Originally they were both going to be bonus tracks. I felt that Holocaust being very different to the original Big Star version was worth being included on the album. We moved Eternal Winter to the bonus track on The Invocation. Twisted Sister's Destroyer turned out great and will be on The Kingdom as the bonus track. It is more similar to the original version so we felt it would be better as a bonus rather than appearing in the track listing.

It could seem a bit strange considering this split will sadly remain too confidential but to me this is a perfect DOOM collaboration which will leave a mark to the trad’ Doom scene of the years 2010 and can maybe push some young australian doomheads to form a band… do you ever think about the fact that your music can be lived like a real revelation for some and/or an influence for others ?

I never really think like that. To be honest I look up to the many other great trad DOOM bands around and think that we are a long way below them. I consider myself a fan of others and no matter what Rote Mare does in the future I will probably always think like that.

- The scene in Australia has always provided quality bands, not in numerous quantities though, at least to our ears… it looks like Death Metal remains very popular and Stoner is another popular heavy style but Doom seems very confidential … is there any new Doom bands worth mentioning from Australia ?

To be honest I don't hear of many. I'm sure there are some others hiding away that I would like to hear. There are a lot of stoner and sludge bands around but not so many trad DOOM bands. I like some of these but would prefer to hear some more bands like Rituals Of The Oak or Dire Fate.

 - What about playing LIVE for ROTE MARE ? You played at black Conjuration Fest in March, how good was this half an hour of Doom ?! How do you succeed to compose the ideal setlist with such reduced time of playing ?

That was an awesome half an hour and it was a great successful night in general. We were a bit nervous and made a few little fuck ups as it was our first gig for over a year but it went down really well. Our setlist for the show was The Kingdom, The Furthest Shore and The Hour Of Doom. The idea was just to put a bit of variety into such a short set.

- Next one is in May opening for UNIDA, isn’t it a bit special to be playing for people who maybe don’t know anything about Doom or even just don’t like it in such circumstances or do you take it as an interesting challenge ? Do you have other plans coming next ?

I wrote to the promoter asking for a Saint Vitus support if they came to Adelaide which would have been an absolute dream. But the promoter thought they would not draw enough of a crowd in Adelaide (probably right unfortunately) so he offered us the Unida support instead. That's cool because I do love Unida but it can't compare to Vitus of course... ha ha. I'm going to enjoy inflicting The Hour Of Doom on the Unida audience. I will probably organise a local show where we can play a longer set to promote the release of the two albums sometime mid year.

- Thanx a lot Phil for your time and for providing such good music to our doomed ears ! add something about merch of course, plus more we might not have spoke about !

Thanks Steph for the opportunity of the interview and the interesting thoughtful questions. So if anyone is interested in cds or patches you can find our store in a couple of places. or . Demos available for download from bandcamp. Thanks to the people who have already bought it or supported us in other ways.


Read the nice review of the split - by Steve Miller : here

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